Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill

Information and updates about the proposed changes to the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill which was tabled in Parliament in December 2017.

Latest updates:

This page will be updated as the Bill progresses through the Parliamentary process.

  • 7 February 2017: The Health Committee has called for submissions for the Bill. The closing date for submissions is Wednesday, 21 March 2018. You can make your submission online.
  • 20 December 2017: The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill was tabled in Parliament – Aim of the proposed changes

Aim of  the proposed changes

The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill was tabled in Parliament on 20 December 2017.

The changes proposed are part of the Government’s 100 Day Plan to introduce legislation to improve access to medicinal cannabis for terminally ill people and those in chronic pain.

The changes are intended to strengthen the existing therapeutic model and improve access to medicinal cannabis based on principles of fairness, quality and safety, and compassion.

The Bill includes: 

  • compassionate measures for those that are terminally ill
  • a regulation-making power to enable quality standards to be set for medicinal cannabis products available on prescription
  • descheduling cannabidiol as a controlled drug. 

The intent of the Bill is to improve access to affordable cannabis products made to a quality standard.

Timeline for legislation

The proposals announced will come into effect after the Bill has gone through the Parliamentary process.

This is likely to take up to a year, so any changes would come into force from 2019 onwards. An advisory committee will be established and consultation will be undertaken.

In the meantime, people who wish to access medicinal cannabis can still do so through their doctor.

Compassionate measures proposed for the terminally ill

The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill would provide an exception and a statutory defence for the possession and use of illicit cannabis for terminally ill people who have less than 12 months to live.

By illicit cannabis, we mean a cannabis product that is not prescribed by their doctor (for example, products such as dried leaf material through to oils and balms).

The exception and statutory defence is a compassionate approach that acknowledges that some terminally ill people are currently choosing to use illicit cannabis to relieve their symptoms. It means that they will not receive a criminal conviction.

A medicinal cannabis scheme

Currently it is difficult to access affordable medicinal cannabis products. The Medicinal Cannabis Scheme will seek to address this through:

  • a review of how cannabis is prescribed
  • domestic cultivation and manufacture, and
  • minimum quality standards for products.

The Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill establishes a regulation-making power to set quality standards for domestically manufactured and imported cannabis products.

The scheme will support medical practitioners by increasing the range and availability of quality cannabis products, and providing information on these products.

An agency to oversee the cultivation and manufacture of cannabis produced domestically will be established to make sure we comply with our obligations under the United Nations drug conventions. The agency would also oversee the import of cannabis produced overseas. 

The timeframe for the development and implementation of the scheme is still to be confirmed.

Medicinal Cannabis Advisory Committee

We know these proposals will impact on health professionals. A Medicinal Cannabis Advisory Committee will be established to bring together experts (such as clinicians and pharmacists), consumers and others.

The advisory committee will be a valuable way to engage with health practitioners and other interested parties to gain a fuller understanding of concerns, information needs and process issues.

The committee will be asked to consider the current prescribing process for medicinal cannabis products and information needs for clinicians.

Descheduling cannabidiol

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a substance found in cannabis that has potential therapeutic value and little or no psychoactive properties. Descheduling CBD as a controlled drug, making it a prescription medicine only, reflects the advice of the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs.

  • Read more about the changes to Misuse of Drugs Amendment Regulations 2017 – CBD products

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